Email is an effective communication tool for the office, for work with busy clients, for contact with vendors and to stay in touch with friends and family. We use it so much that we are becoming lax in our emails, and the brief nature of text messaging has eroded the remnants of etiquette we once had in our emails.
Communicating brief tidbits of information for efficiency is a good thing, but the short, blunt nature of these communications can cause misunderstandings, hurt feelings and even damaged work or personal relationships. Email etiquette courses can help you learn how to avoid these pitfalls. Use these simple tips to effectively use email for personal and business communications.
No matter how brief the email, carefully monitor your tone in every communication. Your attempt at brevity can often come across as curt or demanding. Consider the difference between: "Don't do that," and, "Can you wait to do that until we have a chance to talk about it?" It takes slightly longer to type, but trying to smooth over ruffled feelings if the first example is taken the wrong way is far more time consuming.
Maintain a professional tone in your emails constantly. This seems silly when you are emailing your spouse from work, but email is far from a private thing. Email etiquette courses recommend that you never put something in an email that you would not be proud of if it showed up in a newspaper. If you do not put it in the email, you never have to worry about who sees it. Save the really personal information for a more private form of communication.
Use correct spelling and grammar and avoid abbreviations, "text speak" and emoticons (the animated smiley faces) in your emails. Your emails are a reflection of you: your professionalism, your intelligence, and your level of education. Write emails that use the basic rules we all learned in elementary school. Your fifth grade teacher will be proud, but more importantly, people will take you as the serious professional you want to be perceived to be.
Email etiquette courses also advise us to use caution when attaching files to emails. Computer viruses are such a threat that many people refuse to open an attachment from anyone. This is not paranoia as some viruses distribute emails from an unsuspecting person's account with an attachment that infects the computers of the recipients. If you need to send an attached file, ask the recipient first or at least give them a heads-up before sending the file.
Finally, email etiquette courses recommend leaving the "To" line of the email blank until you are ready to send the email. Why? This way, you can never accidentally hit send before you are completely ready. Get the email ready for the recipient to see and then put their email address in the "To" box. This will eliminate sending messages before you have a chance to spell check, proof read or calm down.